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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for the ‘Linux’ Category

Claire Wolfe

Survival thumb drives: A reminder from Greylocke

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Last month I blogged about those bootable Knoppix thumb drives containing files of preparedness info.

Greylocke, who’s now making the drives (from unopened, buyer-supplied USB sticks), asked me to post a reminder.

Seems only a handful of people have so far taken him up on the offer. And it is for a limited time, so if you’re interested, check the instructions, then go for it.

He’s hoping somebody else will step up to take the project over from where it was left when his colleague Scott died. He also writes: “I am hoping to bring some more capability to the project by finding someone to write an app for android phones so they can be used as a packet ham radio station with a ht like the baofeng uv5r. That way you can have somewhat secure digital comma with the least amount of gear just a ht a cell phone and a cable to connect the two. Maybe a fold up twinlead j-pole to increase the range.”

Um … if you understand what he just said (and don’t ask me!) and you’re interested, please use the link above to get in touch with him.

Even if all that was as Greek to you as it was to me, the bootable drive with survival files is still a good thing to have. And believe me, it doesn’t require much technical knowhow to use.

Details and contact info here.

Claire Wolfe

Weekend links

Sunday, February 9th, 2014
  • So you still don’t think Google Glass is creepy? Well how ’bout when New York City cops are testing it? (H/T MJR)
  • “The repentant informant.” This article on liberty’s former friend Stacy Litz was published last year. The reporter (whose name really, truly is Jason Nark) interviewed me but forgot to tell me when the story hit, which is why I’m late with the news. I’m not quoted, but he does reference the booklet the Commentariat collaborated on: Rats! So pat yourselves on the back. You’re famous. :-)
  • Cops do the usual no-knock dawn raid. On the usual word of a lying informant. Resident, believing he and his pregnant girlfriend are in danger, shoots and kills a deputy. Cops find pot. A grand jury refuses to indict. Even a blogger cop says it’s the right decision. And you thought there were no such things as miracles.
  • Unfortunately, the usual *&^%$ still goes on. But you know … credit card fraud was involved. And somebody in the house had a concealed carry permit. So of course any amount of coppish violence is totally, absolutely justified. If you don’t think so you must be a domestic terrorist or something.
  • Uh oh. Tricksy, buggy Adobe Flash now carries malware that can infect even Linux machines and Macs. Guess the good old days are truly over.
  • Here’s more on from MWD. For nerdstuff, this is pretty lucid. And he very kindly tells me he’s snagged me a clairewolfe.bit domain name just in case.
  • And never forget, no matter how weird the world gets, we can always enjoy the puppies. So here, via MLS, are big dogs who don’t realize they are.


Claire Wolfe

Midweek links

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014
Claire Wolfe

Friday freedom question: Would you quit the Internet?

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Ever since Pamela Jones shut down Groklaw and announced she was not only abandoning the site but quitting the Internet entirely in light of the Edward Snowden revelations, I’ve been thinking about this.

At the time, though I found her reasons poignant and pertinent, I thought she was overreacting. Now, I don’t know.

Personally, I’m not on the verge of quitting. A big part of my life is here. And all of my career (such as it is) is here. That’s been true since 1986 when a client bought me my first 300-baud modem and set it up so I could electronically submit stories to him. It was certainly true in 1993 when I met my Significant Sweetie (now ex, but still friend) on a FIDOnet gun-rights bulletin board. It’s definitely true now when I’d likely starve to death and blow away without the ‘Net.

Still, I think most of us (and most notably a lot of tech types hereabouts) feel the temptation.

We’ve always been independent sorts around here. We avoid being messed with by power trippers. If we can’t avoid, we “mess back.” But right now, there’s nothing we can do to counter the electronic offenses being committed against us and against freedom by the UberGoverment whose all-probing eye peers out from Mordor on the Potomac.

Oh, sure, we can play the old “keyword” game with our emails. (There’s even a new Firefox/Chrome browser add-on to let us do the same thing with URLs and HTTP headers now.) That’s fun. And it’s always true that irritating and misdirecting the bastards is worthwile, even (or perhaps especially) as tyranny grows. We can also use GPG, dump Windows for Linux, use TOR, etc. etc. etc. And eventually heroic tech wizards may save us — and the Internet — from NSAuron.

But now …? Now …? Now we seem to be faced with using dodges that may or may not help or simply shrugging and going on because, realistically, there’s not much else to do. So …

Would you quit the Internet? If so, what would you do instead? If not, how do you adapt to knowing that everything you do online (or on the phone) is probably recorded and analyzed, even if it then disappears into the maw of a datacenter’s godzillabyte storage capacity, never to be seen again?


Now, that said, I’m “quitting the Internet” for the next three days. I may pop in to post some cute dog pictures tomorrow, and I’ll check in to moderate comments at least once a day. Otherwise, I’m away for a bit from the Bad News Net.

Claire Wolfe

Wednesday links

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

… which all have to do with science, science fiction, medicine, or technology today …

  • “Open up and say ‘neigh'” — how horses can help teach young doctors to have a better bedside manner. (Tip o’ hat to ML.)
  • I thought he’d died decades ago. No, but that was his compatriot Janos Prohaska. Farewell, Ray Harryhausen, FX pioneer.
  • I’ll bet the words “dog” and “cat” were among those our prehistoric ancestors bequeathed us.
  • … Those ancestors now under the sea?
  • So, is the movie of Ender’s Game going to be good? The trailer has possibilities. But I was never a fan of the book. Sorry, Orson Scott Card; you always put me to sleep. Doesn’t look like a sleepy film, though.
  • Anybody hereabouts use Jitsi? A friend’s working on a project with it and recommended it. But I don’t do any of the things it’s noted for (online chat, video or VOIP calls), so I dunno. He says it’s got super-good encryption.
Claire Wolfe

Preparedness backup reference library

Monday, November 12th, 2012

The KTD Project is an effort to put over 600 preparedness and survival texts onto bootable thumb drives or SD cards.

The idea is to be able to carry a vast store of resources anywhere and access it on even some pretty inadequate equipment. (Yes, paper would be even more accessible in primitive conditions — if we weren’t talking about such a huge volume.)

Mark (aka GreyLocke), who’s been pulling this together, has pretty comprehensive instructions at the link above.

I’ve queried him about access to the library for people who may not want to deal with the tech stuff. Will let you know if I hear more.


ADDED: Heard from Mark. Here’s the link to the main directory of project files.

He adds:

But just to have the files available on a drive, they either download the zip files from the CD3WD site, there are I believe 48 of them now each are around 300 to 360 MB each, they would then need to be unzipped and the install batch file run.

I find it a lot easier to just use the ISO files and the torrent. I can set bit torrent to download the files for me while I go about my day. After they are downloaded I personally used ISO Buster to just write the files to my hard drive then install them. They now reside in their own directories on my main drive and all 3 of my back up
drives,and as of now 4 of the KTD thumb drives.

Hm. Maybe somebody could make a little money (or at least do a preparedness public service project) by making up KTD sticks and selling them to the less technically ept?

Claire Wolfe

If I’m offline for a while …

Friday, January 13th, 2012

… don’t worry.

I’m just mucking around, changing operating systems again.

My old laptop (running Linux Mint 11) headed toward slow death a month or two ago. I eBayed myself a newer ThinkPad and upgraded (or so I thought) to Mint 12.

I’ve been loving Linux Mint since version 8 or so, and I guess I’m not alone in that since it’s risen from nowhere to become one of the top Linuxes, if not the top Linux, for real people. Love its media friendliness!

But 11 had problems. Not the Mint team’s fault, but there were some new Ubuntu features they got stuck with (hidden slider bars that you can’t see until you’ve moused over them — and moused over them in just exactly the right way — was a very, very, very bad idea). (Okay, they’re scroll bars, as everybody in the comment section is reminding me very diplomatically. I don’t care what they’re called, as long as they work properly.)

Alas, although Mint 12 (and I presume the version of Ubuntu it’s based on) killed off the dreadful catch-us-if-you-can sliders, in other ways it, too, is not ready for prime time.

Again, it seems to be not the Mint team’s fault. Just as Mint is tethered to Ubuntu, it’s also tethered to Gnome, a heretofore marvelous GUI (aka desktop management system; with Linux, unlike Windows, there are several options for the user interface; sometimes users get a choice, sometimes developers make the decision). This time the Gnome team made some rocky decisions. Like the folks who thought hiding the slider bars was an “improvement,” they decided to get too clever for their or their users’ own good. They removed basic functionality (like actually being able to place tasks on the now-misnamed task bar) in favor of a bunch of jumpy jazz.

There’s also the problem of the OS briefly, from time-to-time, consuming all system resources so the computer turns into a snoozing tortoise. There’s a workaround for that. But I don’t want a workaround. I want an operating system that’s smooth and un-annoying right out of the box.

I’ve been using Mint 12 for about a month and am thoroughly irked by its quirks. I expect Mint 13, later this year, will once again be a primo, terrific Linux. They’re addressing every one of the main problems, and the underlying OS is really a great thing. But right now … just not ready for real-user prime time.

Fortunately, at the same time I ordered the Mint 12 DVD, I also bought Mandriva 2011.

Mandriva was the first Linux to aim for real-people friendliness, and was my long-time Linux love. Then they dug themselves a big hole for a few years (are you seeing a pattern here?) and the media-friendly Mint galloped past them.

Anyhow, that’s the long way of saying that I’m about to back up the system and all my data and replace Linux Mint 12 with Mandriva 2011.

If all goes well, you won’t even notice I’m gone. If it doesn’t … don’t worry. The feds probably haven’t carried me off. Yet. More likely I just hit some wrong button. Or several.

And please don’t take any of this as saying that Linux has gone bad for us ordinary, non-geek users. Thing is with Linux, if one version goes wrong, you can try another — for a free download, a $2 CD, or a $6 DVD. You can even try it via a “live” CD or DVD to make sure you like it before committing to an installation.

When Windows goes wrong, OTOH (ME or Vista, anyone?), you’re just plain stuck.


Speaking of Windows, though: the new ThinkPad came with a new, hot version of M$ Windows, Windows 7 Ultimate, pre-installed. I must admit, it’s a pretty slick OS.

Since setting the new computer up to dual-boot Windows and Linux Mint, I haven’t used the former. But before installing Mint, I plinked around with Windows for a week or so and almost persuaded myself I could like it.

… Except, of course, for the conviction that I was being spied on (or potentially spied on) with every click of the mouse.

It’s really beautiful, though, and highly intuitive to use. I hate to say it but … “Nice job, Microsoft.”

Claire Wolfe

Sometimes things don’t go all that well (Linux Mint 11) (Harry Potter was better)

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

I installed Linux Mint 11 last night. And this morning. And again this morning. I think I’m done now.

I’ve been using Linux Mint for several years and just loving it. It’s the most stable, most newbie-friendly, most media friendly Linux I know. Release 7 was terrific, 8 even better — and there I happily stayed until I began having browser woes. I knew there could be hassles jumping three versions forward, but Mint is so friendly I wasn’t worried.


First time I tried to install, it insisted on a username and password long before any had been set. It hinted that the username it wanted was “mint,” but no password in the ‘verse would appease it.

After researching and finding others having the same problem — but no one having a solution — I restarted and tried again. This time it didn’t ask for any impossible information. Guess it decided I was okay.

However this time, though a combo of my own brain fart and one of Mint’s new features (really, if you’re going to have slider bars that hide until somebody mouses over them, you really ought to tell the n00bs that’s what they have to do to access additional configuration options), I screwed up the install by not mounting all my quirky little partitions.

Third time, I got the partitions right, and thought everything was just hunky-dory and nifty-zorch — until I was configuring email and noticed that the @ key was typing ” . And yes, the ” key was typing @. And the pound (#) key was typing pound as in British money, despite my having definitely chosen the standard U.S. keyboard.

Fourth time I finally got good old Mint — complete with all (or nearly all) of my saved configurations. Yay!

The only thing that gave me real trouble is the Thunderbird mail reader. Mint 11 comes with T’bird 3.1.9 (which is far from being the latest release, but seems to be the latest stable Debian package). And T’bird 3.1.9 sucks is a seriously mixed bag. It’s not only filled with crazy quirks (like insisting that some, but not all, “sent” folders be subfolders of the inbox), but in the name of Windows-type automation, it makes it darned near impossible to custom-configure server settings.

Its autoconfigure feature is theoretically cool; but once it decides it wants you to use IMAP servers, not POP3s servers (which it always does, even when IMAP servers might not be available), then you’re going to use IMAP servers (and therefore you’re going to have separate inboxes for each and every one of your dozens of email addresses) even if you opt to configure manually. The only way to avoid it, apparently, is to erase any mail account you just created, click to create a new account, then hit STOP! as quick as you can before the autoconfigure process starts.

Please tell me they got rid of that in later versions of the app. I’ll be watching for new .deb packages.

Anyhow, the short version of the story is that I’m back in business, with only a few deadly email glitches still to work out.


Oh yeah. And Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II was really good. Not great (I don’t think any of the Potter films qualify as great), but one of the best and definitely a fitting, whiz-bang, beautiful, touching conclusion to a remarkable series. Voldemort … positively Shakespearian. Neville … comes valiantly into his own. Minerva McGonagall … steals the show with her couple of tiny scenes. Snape … no wonder viewers made him the winner of the Harry Potter World Cup. And Ron, Hermoine, and Harry … what can you say? Even if not one of the movies rose to Lord of the Rings level, it’s a pretty amazing thing to have made eight so good, with the final being among the best.

Claire Wolfe

New foster dog coming in today, so …

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

I’m headed to another town to pick up a foster dog. I’m not ready for this. I told the local group I’d start fostering this summer, but things have been so unsettled I was considering ways to weasel out of my commitment. This is such a sad case, though. I couldn’t say no.

The incoming dog is a nine-year-old who’s bouncing back to the group because a placement made six years ago has gone sour. The dog, a female black Lab mix, was very much loved. Then the adopter had babies, and “Betsy” never took to them. Eighteen months ago, Betsy bit one of the kids (under circumstances that even the mom says were understandable). The adopter cared enough to work with a dog behaviorist. She tried her best, but Betsy just never adjusted to the children.

The local group is no-kill. But that’s a term of art that means “no adoptable animal will be euthanized.” Dogs with intractable behavior problems or health conditions sometimes have to be put down. With her age and history, Betsy is probably not adoptable. So we’ll see. Permanent foster care is the other most likely option.

The two girls in my pack, who’ve never particularly liked each other, have been pissy to the point of drawing blood lately. Adding another female is going to be … like the seventh grade all over again, I fear.

The one bright spot is Robbie who, after 10 years of being Mr. Dog-Aggressive Bully Boy, has suddenly decided to mellow out and accept that other canines have a right to exist — and that other dogs might even occasionally be likable.

Anyhow, that’s my story. And here’s some miscellany for you while I wander off:

Claire Wolfe

Can they really put a “kill switch” on the Internet?

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Can our Dear Leaders actually put a “kill switch” on the Internet?

No doubt, they’d love to. No doubt, if uber-authoritarian Joe Lieberman has his way, they’ll set up a plan to do exactly that. But is it possible? Or is this just more wishful thinking from powermad damnfools who believe the Internet is “a series of tubes”?

Denny Hansen, my editor at S.W.A.T. magazine, has asked me to write an article on that subject.

I have opinions. But they’re of the “everybody has one” variety. I have a little bit of knowledge. But I know this blog is read by people who have better opinions and more knowledge on technical matters than I. So mind if I pick your brains? I’ll gladly give credit in print (if you want it) to knowledgeable readers who offer solid info. Or opinions based on solid info.

I know the standard freedomista response is, “Ha ha, they can’t do it! The Internet is built to route around damage.” True, to a certain extent. But if the plan is to order ISPs, search engines, and other corporate site owners to shut down or shut off certain functions “in an emergency,” that’s a donkey of a different species. And what about URLs? Isn’t the ‘Net’s centralized naming system vulnerable to political tyranny and underhandedness? Sites have been kicked offline before simply by having their domain names abruptly de-registered, right? Couldn’t a government just do it, or order it done, en masse?

So, geek-genius readers, what would the effect on the ‘Net really be if the .gov decided it wanted to rule the ‘Net — “for the children” or “to fight the thread of global cyber terrorism” or to “halt domestic terrorists”? Would key sites simply move (or clone themselves) offshore to avoid being subject to political orders? Would too many of the Big Boys like Google yield to pressure? Is the whole idea of a “kill switch” simply bogus? Or would a kill switch be at least partly effective? Or would the fedgov, if it so wished, really shut down or cripple major functions?

If so, how would commerce be affected? How would you talk with your friends in China or Iran if a president ordered ISPs to stop accepting traffic to and from such places? And how would non-geeks function? I mean, I know you smart guys have a million ways to “route around” government damage; in that way, the old claim is true and glory hallelujah. But what about Jo and Joe average? Could their Divine Political Rulers really pull the “kill switch” on them?

Tell me. Tell the world. Tell the comments section, if you’re willing. Links to great sources appreciated. If you have serious expertise but you’d rather tell me your thoughts privately, just say so in the comments and I’ll contact you via email.

Many thanks!

Claire Wolfe

Monday miscellany

Monday, June 21st, 2010
  • This WSJ article focuses on the behavior of investors (and draws, I think, some dubious conclusions). But the heart and soul of it is about the psychology of going along with the crowd. Good info not to live by.
  • The NRA’s free-speech sellout from a different political perspective.
  • He loves his Mac. He doesn’t hate Windows. In fact, he thinks Windows 7 is a great product. But he’s switching to Linux.
  • Well, whaddaya know? Portugal decriminalizes virtually all recreational drug use and the universe fails to implode.
  • “Patience and Personal Finance.” News you can use if you’re working on getting out of debt. (News impatient people like me can use any old time.)
  • Why it may take years for the housing market to be healthy again.
  • “Disrespect for Government is as American as Fried Bananas.” ran this article last week. It’s about contrasts between Latin American attitudes and U.S. American attitudes toward government and law. Thing is, the folks down south know their governments are corrupt and dangerous. So they don’t give them any respect — and also don’t favor using them to harass or manipulate their neighbors. A lot of people (me included) shudder at the thought of living in some country where police expect bribes and politicians are nakedly corrupt. But there’s a darned good argument in favor of such places.
  • And finally, just to get your weekend off to an extra cheery start, that Active Denial pain ray we’ve been hearing about for years has finally made it into Afghanistan. You can be sure it’ll win hearts and minds when the U.S. fedgov starts microwaving women, children, and old men.
Claire Wolfe

Linux: This time, it really IS time

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Every once in a while, I beat the drum for Linux. I swear it’s not just for geeks any more. After all, I’m no geek and I’ve been using Linux — and watching it get better and better — for 12 years.

Windows users usually ignore me when I bang my Linux drum. Ah well; so it goes.

But a couple of things happened recently that convinced me Linux has finally, truly, really, no-kidding gone beyond being a contender against Windows for the average desktop user. It has become clearly superior to Windows for the average desktop user.

So, you who are using (or being used by) Windows, bear with me once more as I offer:

Two evidences that Linux is ready for the rest of us
10 specific reasons to try Linux
Three reasons not to try Linux
One great Linux for newbies
Five other n00b-compatible Linuxes and
How to get ’em — free, cheap, and easy

Here goes …

Two evidences that Linux is ready for the rest of us

1. A couple months ago, I loaded Linux onto the computer of a technophobic friend. He wasn’t eager to try Linux, but he was beyond fed up with Windows — with its nagging popups, blue screens of death, chronic slowdowns, daily application crashes, and Big Brother in Redmond watching.

He hasn’t has a single problem since. Aside from little things like getting used to buttons being in different places, he’s been happily browsing the web, sending email, playing music, editing photos, and watching DVDs since Linux Day One.

2. More recently, I had to perform a routine configuration task on several computers. It took me five minutes on Linux. After five hours on Windows I still couldn’t get it done. But I did manage to crash the brand, shiny new operating system. Twice. Without even trying. Later, I succeeded in performing the job — but only after giving in to some Microsoftian nannying.

Yes. We’ve now reached the point where Linux can be easier than Windows.

10 specific reasons to try Linux

1. Money. You can download many versions of Linux free or buy them on CD for as little as $1.75.

2. Money. Most applications for Linux are free, including full-featured equivalents of apps like PhotoShop (the GIMP) and Microsoft Office (OpenOffice).

3. You can try without committing. Most Linuxes are now available on “live” CDs that let you test drive the operating system before installing. Have fun. Check it out. Then, when you feel comfortable — install off the same CD. You have nothing to lose!

4. No nannying popups.

5. No spyware.

6. Freedom from viruses and trojans, nearly all of which are specially designed around flaws in Windows.

7. Linux is by independent people, for independent people.

8. Stability. Applications may occasionally crash. But Linux itself? Like the Rock of Gibralter.

9. Property rights. When you buy a copy of Linux, you own it. No begging permissions to re-install. No having to prove to Bill Gates that yours is a “legitimate” copy.

10. The most popular Linuxes for newbies feature “package managers” that automate installation of software and fulfill all dependencies at the same time.

10a. Seriously. I mean it. Linux can be easier to use than Windows.

Three reasons not to try Linux

1. Because you’re married to Windows by some professional requirement (e.g. you need software made only for Windows; your work network is Windows-only, etc.)

2. Inertia (or as my formerly Linux-phobic friend said less charitably of himself this morning, “fear and ignorance”)

3. “Because I’m just not interested, Claire. So shut up and quit bothering me!”

Okay. But if it’s reasons 1 or 2, you could still drag that old, spare computer out of a closet and give Linux a try. Or just boot up a “live” Linux CD on the very machine you’re using now and poke around a little without obligating yourself to anything.

If you do decide to install a Linux, you can still keep Windows and do a dual boot.

One great Linux for newbies

I’m going to make this super-simple.

There are hundreds of “flavors” of Linux — different looks, feels, features, and functionality built on the same core operating system. Some are strictly for geeks. Slackware, for instance. Newbies don’t go there. Others are astonishingly specialized. There’s a Linux especially for multimedia artists. And one customized for Christians. There are Linuxes solely in Portuguese or Chinese.

But you can bypass all that confusion.

The best, all-round, totally newbie friendly, impressively full-featured Linux is this one. Mint.

Mint came out of nowhere about three years ago. But it isn’t exactly new. It’s built on a wildly popular Linux distro called Ubuntu, which is in turn built on one of the big pioneering distros called Debian.

Ub-what? Deb-who? Never mind. What that means to newbies is that Mint has a solid history, plenty of stability, and hoards of available application packages.

What sets Mint apart, though, is that it’s designed to give you everything the everyday user wants right out of the box.

It not only comes with all the big apps (e.g. Firefox browser, Thunderbird mail reader, the GIMP photo manipulation program, OpenOffice). Many Linux distros have all those. But the standard download or CD edition comes complete with media codecs. Yep. Crank up Linux Mint (which takes only about 1/2 hour to install) and you’ll be playing DVDs with no further fuss or expense.

It’s clean, simple, & pretty, too.

Try it; you’ll like it. My technophobic friend did.

Five other n00b-compatible Linuxes

If you decide you don’t want Mint … or if you want to try five or six Linuxes at once (and why not? It’s cheap!) here are other major, newbie-friendly Linux distros:

1. Mandriva. My long-time personal favorite, Mandriva was the very first Linux designed (back in 1998) specifically for ease of use. Unlike Mint, it also has sophisticated system administration tools built into the GUI. (Newbie version to choose: MandrivaOne)

2. Puppy. Puppy’s claim to fame is that it’s both friendly and very, very, very small. Hey! Just like a puppy. The entire operating system loads into RAM, so you can carry it around with you on a USB stick or a flash card and use it on any computer equipped with the proper ports. Despite being so small, it’s got lots of applications (though not always the big standard ones) and its very fast.

3. Ubuntu. Ubuntu could be called “the people’s Linux.” It’s built on a philosophy that everybody in the world should be able to use, customize, and alter free software, regardless of their native language or disabilities. It’s hugely popular. But since you can get all the good things of Ubuntu and more via Mint, I’d go with Mint.

4. KNOPPIX. It’s been a few years since I tried KNOPPIX, but I remember it as an unfancy type of Linux, easy to use and definitely not a memory hog. (In fact, if memory serves, it was one of the first to use the “live” CD concept that lets you try without committing.) Like Mint and Ubuntu, KNOPPIX is based on Debian, which gives you a solid base of applications and proven technology.

5. Mepis. Another Debian-based, elegant, nice-and-easy Linux. Last time I tried this one (about a year ago), it irritated me by asking for a password before I could use its live CD. That’s silly! But I think the password it wanted was just “demo” and if you have the patience to type that in, you’ll see a very nice, sleek OS.

5a. Fedora. Fedora is based on Red Hat — another of the old-line, very stable, very respectable Linuxes. As with the Debian-based Linuxes, it has its own package manager that makes software installation a dream and it has tons of software in its repositories. Some people might say Fedora isn’t ideal for n00bs because it tends to be bleeding edge. Red Hat uses it as a testing ground for new apps and new code. So yes, occasionally it might produce frustration. But it’s a nice, slick operating system and its basics are very sound. So let’s say this one is for newbies who are also willing to be bold explorers now and then.

How to get ’em — free, cheap, and easy

There are lots of ways to get every Linux. But the easiest place to begin — Linux Central, so to speak — is DistroWatch. DistroWatch has a page for every Linux. Type in the name of the Linux you want or choose from the drop-down menu at the top of the page and click GO.

Or, if you want to keep it simple, click on my recommendations above. All those links go to DistroWatch listings.

On the individual distro’s page, you’ll find links to download sites and reviews.

If you want to buy your copy on CD, DVD, or USB, DistroWatch has links to two vendor sites, and You can buy a “live” CD for as little as $1.75, an installation DVD for as little as $4.95, or a USB stick pre-loaded with a distro for $15 and up. Both sites offer various shipping discounts, return customer discounts, etc.

TIP: Microsoft assumes that every user should interact with the operating system in exactly the same way (via one standardized graphical user interface, aka windows manager, aka the thing that makes Windows look like Windows). Linux users get to choose among many interfaces. It can be a little confusing at first. Don’t worry about it. Most distros come with an interface called Gnome (pronounced G’nome) or one called KDE; they’re the two Big Boys among windows managers. If you’re given a choice, Gnome’s a little simpler. But either will serve you just fine.

So, Windows users … what’s holding you back?

Questions? You still have questions? I’m no geek or Linux guru, but if you’re serious about giving Linux a try and want the benefit of my ordinary user experience, I’ll do my best to answer in the comments section. And what I can’t answer, the more serious Linuxians among the blog readers probably will.

EDIT: One more thing. My ex-Significant-Sweetie (the serious Linux guru from whom I long ago caught the Linux bug) suggested I add a link to Goodbye Microsoft. If you frequent Wendy McElroy’s blog you’ll have seen links to GM. It’s the brainchild of her husband and co-blogger, Brad.



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